We look. The photographer sees. Recording the greatest epidemic of the 21st century in its grand desolation, despair and hope is to challenge the cliché. Parul Sharma’s work rises above the grammar of the mundane by visualising motifs and frames that sublimate the banality of suffering. The medium of black and white photography is a binary challenge—the eye often deviates from the greys because the contrast is too compelling. The empty vista of Rajpath and the pillars of Parliament house show power asleep.
The geometry of light and shadow in a carriageway, monkeys having taken over North Block (no comment), the Hitchcockian crows at India Gate shot against angry cumulus, the solitary policeman at the railway station, the dozing florist, the lonesome Ambassador car; these images show the stark beauty of Delhi without its teeming millions. In spite of its solitude, this book reflects the true soul of Delhi. Connaught Place, unfortunately renamed by some boomer sycophant, shines in Lutyens grandeur. Taken from the top, it reminds you of what Delhi was or could be.
The Souza eyes and grinning face gazing out in surprise at the deserted hallways of CP is art appreciating life. An empty street carpeted with fallen leaves, Khan Market without the gang, and the angles and lines of buildings and bridges are framed and cropped with acute visual intelligence. Of course, what is a Delhi book without Old Delhi? The difference in Dialects of Silence is that Sharma’s photos transcend the limitations of mandatory frames.
The photographs of the ghost minarets of the shimmering Jama Masjid evoke its ageless classicism; time stopped there and somehow Sharma has caught the space between the parentheses.
The book segues into wel thought-out chapters. From total isolation to calibrated distancing—children waiting to be fed while confined to chalk rings and a child in a mask in the middle of the ICU toying with its food—the volume records a period that has changed the world forever. Seeing the beauty of lonely Delhi ironically makes you appreciate the gift of the pandemic, which is reflected in the photographer’s hunting compulsion.